Taking Pioneer by Lotus Storm

Pascal Vieren

Pascal Vieren

Introduction

When Pioneer as a format was announced, I was testing for Mythic Championship IV in Richmond. So even though I love brewing, I didn’t get to play a lot of Pioneer in the earliest days of the format. Once cards were getting banned, I felt somewhat reluctant to invest a lot of time into Pioneer.

This changed when I saw the following tweet by young Danish star Oscar Christensen:

I was in love with the deck. So much I immediately logged onto Magic Online to buy it. I’ve always liked playing combo decks and this particular list very much impressed me.

Initial Changes

Once Upon a Time

Shortly after I bought the deck, 《Once Upon a Time》 got banned. This wasn’t exactly surprising, as 《Once Upon a Time》 is clearly a mistake that never should’ve happened. For this deck, it meant finding the necessary lands would be a bit harder.

This is the first list I took to battle after the 《Once Upon a Time》 bans:

This list is still very close to the deck Oscar posted. I liked how the deck played out, but I wasn’t exactly convinced either. It was a strong shell attacking from a different angle. But if people were prepared and wanted to stop you, they could. I was impressed with how the deck could beat discard or overcome mulligans. I was also convinced the deck hadn’t reached its final form yet. More upgrades could be made.

New insights came to me when I saw notorious Storm aficionado Caleb Scherer tweet the following:

Notable things here are the omission of 《Fae of Wishes》 and inclusion of 《Doublecast》. 《Fae of Wishes》 comes with a serious cost, as you need to play with a smaller sideboard. You need four slots for your actual win condition and probably want additional useful targets.

Fae of Wishes

In my games, I was very impressed by 《Fae of Wishes》 however. 《Granted》 gives you a lot of options and the Fae itself is a decent blocker. I wasn’t inclined to cut it. 《Doublecast》 seemed like a win-more card to me. It does nothing on its own and you need a lot of mana in advance to get it going.

DoublecastPore Over the Pages

But this was Caleb Scherer, he’s the Storm master. I would be foolish to just dismiss what he was trying, so I watched his video on 1.5x speed to see his list in action. And I must say, 《Doublecast》 seemed impressive. Copying 《Pore Over the Pages》 with two 《Lotus Field》 gives you six new cards and twelve mana to work with. I wasn’t convinced you want an entire playset, as the card is pretty weak against discard spells, but it looked good in action.

There’s an important lesson here: don’t think you know best. I consider myself a good player with a decent grasp of Magic’s fundamentals. It would be shortsighted however, to not challenge my own beliefs and explore what others are having success with. Only by keeping an open mind can you improve.

Long story short, after blending everything together, I came to the following list:

Card choices

Lands

Lotus FieldThespian's StageSylvan Scrying

You need one of each land to combo, so playing less than the complete playset of these cards seems like a mistake to me. 《Thespian’s Stage》 can have some utility by copying other lands, look out for this opportunity.

Breeding PoolTemple of MysteryBotanical Sanctum
Yavimaya CoastForest

Lands tap for mana. Also important is the full playset of 《Temple of Mystery》, which helps you set up in the early turns. Getting a free scry from your land drops is huge. I should add that 《Botanical Sanctum》 plays nicely with 《Lotus Field》.

Ramp Spells

Arboreal GrazerGrowth Spiral

Starting the game with a first turn 《Arboreal Grazer》 will greatly improve your chances to win the game. It allows for the infamous turn 3 kill, while also being a decent blocker against the aggressive deck. 《Growth Spiral》 is less impressive, but functions as a decent backup for 《Arboreal Grazer》. The fact that you effectively only have 16 lands capable of casting 《Growth Spiral》 on turn 2 also hurts.

Draw Spells

Strategic PlanningDig Through Time

《Dig Through Time》 gets my vote for strongest card currently not banned in Pioneer. 《Strategic Planning》 helps fueling it, which often comes in handy and is the reason I play it over 《Shimmer of Possibility》. 《Lotus Field》 also fuels 《Dig Through Time》, which is pretty great in a world without fetch lands.

Combo Parts

Hidden StringsVizier of Tumbling SandsPore Over the Pages

The combo cards. 《Hidden Strings》 nets you four mana if you have two 《Lotus Field》, but can also give you two mana if you have a single 《Lotus Field》 and another land. 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》 cycles while giving additional mana. 《Pore Over the Pages》 gives cards and additional mana with two 《Lotus Field》 or can also be 《Ancestral Recall》 with a single 《Lotus Field》 and another land.

DoublecastFinale of Revelation

《Doublecast》 has a lot of uses, depending on whether you need mana or cards, but copying 《Pore Over the Pages》 is the sweetest thing. Casting 《Finale of Revelation》 for X=10 should win you the game. Shuffling your graveyard back is also relevant every now and then.

《Fae of Wishes》 and Sideboard

Fae of Wishes

This card allows you to deal with anything and put all the clunky win conditions in your sideboard, which costs you over half of your sideboard.

Against some decks, you might also want to run out the 《Fae of Wishes》 itself on turn two. This play allows you to Cipher 《Hidden Strings》 onto it, which very occasionally ends up mattering. I would advise to mostly try this in postboard games, as your opponent is less likely to be able to answer the creature.

Use your 《Fae of Wishes》 freely to answer your opponent’s board or get a counterspell if necessary. During your combo turns, you can cast and return the 《Fae of Wishes》 after sending it on an Adventure.

Flexible Wish Targets

FogNatural StateAnger of the GodsMystical Dispute
Lost LegacyHour of RevelationThought Distortion

Each of these has its different uses, I would advise always leaving one of each in your sideboard. If destroying your opponent’s board will give you more than one additional turn, go ahead. Most decks can’t really afford to not put as much pressure on you as possible.

My brother Peter was testing out UW control and felt the 《Lotus Field》 deck couldn’t really beat a couple of 《Dovin’s Veto》 if he just kept them for cards that actually do something. So far, 《Thought Distortion》 been a great solution to this.

Combo Wish Targets

OmniscienceEnter the InfiniteJace, Wielder of Mysteries

This is pretty straightforward:

Rest of Sideboard

Shifting CeratopsAnger of the GodsMystical Dispute

These are the only cards I actually board in. 《Shifting Ceratops》 is pretty great versus UW control. It can take out a Planeswalker the turn it enters play. Depending on how they sideboarded, they may not even have an answer left for the hasty dinosaur.

Play Patterns

Lotus FieldThespian's StageVizier of Tumbling Sands

The general plan of the deck is to find 《Lotus Field》 and copy it with 《Thespian’s Stage》. Proceed to play a bunch of cards that let you untap these while drawing your deck. Kill them with your sideboard cards. This is easy enough in theory. But while actually playing the deck, I found some play patterns allowing the smoothest set up to come up frequently.

For those who’ve played the Modern version of 《Lotus Field》 combo, you’ll often want to float mana when you play 《Lotus Field》 to untap it with 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》. I found this to be rarely the right play in the Pioneer version.

Hidden StringsPore Over the Pages

A common pattern is starting the turn with a 《Lotus Field》 and playing a 《Thespian’s Stage》. A 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》 will net you enough mana here to be able to copy 《Lotus Field》 and untap both with 《Hidden Strings》 to cast 《Pore Over the Pages》.

Sylvan Scrying

Another common pattern is to start the turn with 《Lotus Field》 without 《Thespian’s Stage》. Having a 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》 allows you to cycle Vizier, cast 《Sylvan Scrying》 and search 《Thespian’s Stage》 with enough mana left to copy 《Lotus Field》. This gives you a good setup for the next turn.

Lotus FieldVizier of Tumbling Sands

It’s possible to combo with a 《Lotus Field》 and a cast 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》. Vizier can’t be untapped with 《Pore Over the Pages》, but it works well with 《Hidden Strings》. Keep this in mind when you’re unable to find 《Thespian’s Stage》, but know you’ll need to combo the next turn.

Dig Through Time

If your draw is less explosive, try setting up an early 《Dig Through Time》 to find your combo pieces. It’s often right to chump block with an 《Arboreal Grazer》 to get an additional card in your graveyard.

OmniscienceFae of Wishes

When assessing whether you’ll be able to start your combo, count your mana carefully. You don’t want to end up a mana short to cast 《Pore Over the Pages》. The deck can generate a ton of mana, but not infinite. Once you resolve 《Omniscience》, you might still need a couple of mana to cast 《Fae of Wishes》 from exile and return it to your hand.

This deck can sometimes fizzle, but it’ll usually mean you’ll be up a bunch of cards. 《Hidden Strings》 is the only card that actually costs a card. Evaluating when to stop your combo and get something with 《Granted》 to stop your opponent is one of the harder decisions with this deck.

Going forward

Dig Through TimeLotus Field

Pioneer will be the constructed format of choice for the upcoming Regional Players Tours. It’s not clear if there will be more banning before these tournaments, but I hope we will get an official announcement soon. Both 《Dig Through Time》 and 《Lotus Field》 are surely on the watch list, so knowing if we’ll be able to play these would be nice.

I don’t think this is the final form Lotus Storm will have. I’m excited to see the evolution this deck will undergo. We’re having an unofficial Nationals in Belgium where I’ll be playing Lotus Storm. I’ll make sure to post an updated list on Twitter (@VierenPascal) after the tournament. Feel free to hit me up with any questions or suggestions you might have.

Pascal Vieren (Twitter)

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Pascal Vieren

Pascal Vieren Pascal is a Gold Level Pro from Belgium. Before the beginning 2018-2019 season, he was advanced from Hareruya Hopes to Hareruya Pros with Jacob Nagro, and his countryman, Branco Neirynck. He has some sweet results like 2 GP top 8s and the runner-up at Worl Magic Cup 2016 with the greatest Belgian team in the history. Though, the most impressive one is Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan where he went undefeated in the Swiss portion (12-0-4) and 3rd place at the end. He piloted an interesting UR Pyromancer deck which was designed by his big brother Peter Vieren. Read more articles by Pascal Vieren

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